Health initiative helped with ‘safe routes to school,’ plans open gym time

Since launching about a year ago, organizers have pursued the goal of making changes at the community level that will “make the healthy choice the easy choice,” as the campaign’s refrain goes. Organizers have included the Richfield Public School District in those efforts in reaching out to the public and institutions across Richfield, Bloomington and Edina.

Sara Maaske, a field director, outlined some of those school-related efforts at a Richfield School Board meeting on Monday, Jan. 7. According to Maaske, they include the following: helped the city of Richfield and the school district formulate a “safe routes to school” plan through public engagement efforts.  The campaign’s focus on safe travels continued   with a walking audit performed at the Science Technology and Engineering School. Parents were encouraged to walk their children to school and report back on the experience. It was not a robust evaluation, though, according to Maaske.

“We didn’t have a ton of participation,” she said, but the data they managed to collect was sent to a consulting firm for analysis,” she said.

Among other efforts, had a role promoting healthy lunches at back-to-school nights. More recently, has just begun  research into school wellness committees, in which representatives are examining the structure of those groups in hopes of learning how to better engage parents to help create healthier schools, Maaske said.

Maaske was complimentary of the district’s wellness efforts. “As we’ve observed, Richfield’s done a really great job at making these changes in the schools,” she said.

Another change could come to Richfield Dual Language School. The campaign is in talks to use space there for open gym time. Perhaps that will be one of the last accomplishments of the official campaign, which lasts through March.

But Maaske hopes the three communities covers can continue the effort. “We can’t be here forever,” she said, “and it’s really important for this work to continue on.”

Contact Andrew Wig at [email protected]